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Steph back in England fold
 Women's Football News 5 Feb 2008
Steph back in England fold - 5 Feb 2008 - Women's Football NewsEngland Under-20 meet up on Wednesday evening on the outskirts of Slough, but 48 hours later will be heading to La Serena in Chile.
La Serena boasts white sand beaches, a pleasant year-round climate, great scenery and superb seafood, and is the country's second oldest city. None of that will be of too much interest to Head Coach Mo Marley though, as she seeks to step up preparations ahead of the FIFA Women's Under-20 World Cup in Chile this November.
An 18-player squad will play three matches against Chile, the USA and Norway between 11-15 February and for one of the squad, pulling on the England training top will be of greater satisfaction than usual.
Twelve months ago, Steph Houghton was being tipped by supporters and journalists as being one of the 'surprise inclusions' in Hope Powell's squad for the World Cup in China.
Strong, consistent performances for Sunderland saw Steph earn five caps between March and May of 2007, earning her a call up in the final squad of 21. But just three days before the team departed for their training camp in Macau, Steph sustained a spiral fracture of the left leg, an injury that has only saw her return to first team action in November.
"To be called up for the under-20 squad is a huge honour," Steph told www.TheFA.com. "This time last year I was targetting the senior World Cup and it would have been a dream come true to have been involved. That wasn't to be, and now if I could represent my country in Chile, it would be just as satisfying.
"All the physios who have worked with me I owe a lot to, and Rick [Passmoor] and Leanne [Hall] at Leeds have also given me a huge amount of support and stuck by me whilst I've been working my way back."
After two or three games coming off the bench before Christmas, Steph has now got three games of 90 minutes behind her, and last weekend played in the FA Cup victory which went to penalties away to Chelsea. "I actually took a penalty and missed," admitted Steph, "and my only excuse was that I was completely knackered!" On Sunday she scored her first goal for the club, the winner in their 3-2 victory over Birmingham City.
Between them, Leeds and Chelsea make up half of the squad, and Steph feels that her Leeds side are making progress after a slow start to the season.
"We took a while to gel as a side but we're having a good run in The FA Cup and starting to make progress," said Steph. "Rick and Lianne are trying to build a team around some very talented young players, supported by some experienced heads like Sue Smith and Amanda Barr, and hopefully in 2-3 seasons we'll be aiming for sustained period of success."
Of her teammates in Chile, Steph knows the likes of Danielle Hill, Sian Larkin and Ellen White from a spell at Loughborough University, and it was there that the squad met for fitness training and a pep talk this week.
"The Coaching staff have come up with a programme for all the players and we've also received nutritional advice, as well as information preparing us for the long flight. At every level for England now, the players are being supported from a technical, medical and psychological side, and as our players becoming more attuned to the demands of international football, I'm positive that we'll continue to close the gap on some of the more established nations.
"I've never been to South America before so there'll be an element of the unexpected about the three games, but if we prepare as professionally as possible against some strong opposition, we can given ourselves a good confidence boost ahead of the World Cup in November."
England Under-20 Squad:
Danielle HILL Everton
Rebecca SPENCER Arsenal
Danielle BUET Chelsea
Sophie BRADLEY Leeds United
Jayne EADIE Blackburn Rovers
Stephanie HOUGHTON Leeds United
Sian LARKIN Chelsea
Toni DUGGAN Everton
Lizzie EDWARDS Chelsea
Michelle HINNIGAN Everton
Sophie WALTON Leeds United
Chelsea WESTON Birmingham City
Remi ALLEN Leicester City WFC
Jessica CLARKE Leeds United
Natasha DOWIE Everton
Claire RAFFERTY Chelsea
Ellen WHITE Chelsea
Kelly LAWRENCE Indiana University

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